Social Question

Blackberry's avatar

Some people are happy with a moderate lifestyle, and some seem to need more to be happy. What causes the contrast between people needing more or less to be happy?

Asked by Blackberry (31878points) July 3rd, 2012

What do you think are some of the major influences on people that need more money and status raising-objects to make them feel better, as opposed to someone who doesn’t need as much and is ok with what some people may call unsustainable?

Of course, this is just an example. You can provide whatever detail you would like (of course I would like much detail, though).

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20 Answers

mowens's avatar

It ultimately boils down to the self esteem of that individual.

Hawaii_Jake's avatar

It seems to all boil down to what we find important in life. I believe I was already born with what makes me valuable, so I don’t need a lot of material possessions to make me worthwhile.

Coloma's avatar

Ceaseless pursuit of material gain/stuff is indicative of a spiritual disconnect. Needing more and more to fill up the empty spot inside that can only be filled with a sacred connection to all life. The spiritually bankrupt person fills this hole with stuff, the spiritually grounded person fills this hole with presence, natural wonder, curiosity and joy in simply being alive and a part of it all. While I in-joy some of the comforts and luxuries of life my greatest joy and peace comes from communing with nature and marveling at the ” hows & whys” of this amazing existence.

thorninmud's avatar

I once read that there is a link between overeating and a diminished sense of taste: people who are genetically unable to taste food well tend to eat more in an effort to satisfy their cravings.

I think the same kind of mechanism operates in life in general. People who live inattentively and fail to savor the stuff of ordinary life will find that it takes more and grander stuff to deliver some sense of (fleeting) satisfaction. Attention is key—wake up to the feast that’s long been spread.

tom_g's avatar

@Coloma – Great answer. I must also add that there are people I know who also derive meaning – or rather, attempt to derive meaning – from perpetually doing stuff. I have known people who can’t sit still. While normally I would celebrate experience as an alternative to consumption, I have seen people engage in this behavior as though they were addicted, in a decidedly immoderate way. There is a similar lack of awareness that comes with this, and it seems obsessive. One person I knew who was like this admitted to feeling very uncomfortable to what appeared in her mind when she was still for even the shortest of times. Doing was what she did to escape herself.
Anyway, great question. Regarding the “major influences” question – I can’t help but think that our consumer culture is largely to blame for tapping into what might be natural, human weakness.

funkdaddy's avatar

I think people assume selfishness from those who want more.

I want more because my parents are at retirement age, my mother in law just retired, my brother has a lifelong disease, and my wife is pregnant with my first child. Those people have given me everything in the past and if they ever need anything I want to be there. I feel like I’m the best person for the job and so it’s my responsibility.

If through a ton of hard work I feel I’m on my way there, I might get myself a house or a car or a snazzy vacation along the way.

I’m sure someone will judge that as excess and a sign of my selfishness and misplaced priorities.

flutherother's avatar

For people who have enough and yet always want more there is the word ‘greed’. A species of madness.

Coloma's avatar

@tom_g Very true as well!
Frantic doing to escape oneself…another addictive means of coping with the fear of stillness and what it might reveal. I know someone just like this…she can only relax after frenetic “productivity” and only after she pours a bottle of wine down her gullet every night.
Sad indeed.

Mariah's avatar

One thing I’ve noticed is that it seems like people who have overcome great hardships appreciate and are content with small pleasures more.

mazingerz88's avatar

Mick Jagger – I can’t get no satisfaction…
John Lennon – Imagine there’s no countries…

Trillian's avatar

“And what is fear of need but need itself?
Is not dread of thirst when your well is full, the thirst that is unquenchable?”
K. Gibran

marinelife's avatar

Confusion that material things will equal happiness.

JLeslie's avatar

I agree that sometimes it is a self esteem issue, feeling insecure. Owning an expensive car or big beautiful home might give some people more confidence, just like booze give some people more confidence to socialize and ask a girl to dance. Makes the people feel they will be perceived as good enough.

My husband says part of his drive for material things is it demonstrates his success, his hard work. He is funny though, he likes having a very nice house, but at the same time does not spend a lot on clothing (some of you might remember he sometimes darns his socks) he has not bought a new suit, dress shirt or pair of trousers in about 7 years. When you meet him you would never guess the cars he has or the house we have. Very laid back and casual and doesn’t like the whole she she scene.

I think a lot of his drive for material things is he had a lot of material things when he was young. Partly a family thing passed down, and partly cultural. The community he grew up with had new cars all the time and expensive watches and so on. He is much much less materialistic than his siblings.

But then, some people who grow up with nothing wind up extremely materialistic, so you never know. But, that has not been my experience. In my experience the people I know who grew up very poor, still are not very materialistic as adults when they make lots of money.

For me, some material things make me very happy. But, back to cultural differences, my dad always told me money is important not because of the material things you can buy, but because it gives you independence and power. Autonomy to do what you want to do. That stuck with me, and money mostly to me is security and being able to do what I want to do. So I like seeing money in the bank, as opposed to diamonds and designer labels.

I will say this, there is a big difference in quality of clothing when you get into designer labels compared to stuff made for the masses. Once you get used to the nicer things it is more difficult to go back, because you know the difference. So, another part of the pursuit for material things is to maintain a certain level.

My SIL when she was going through difficult financial times said she worried for her kids. I asked if she was having trouble making her rent or needed some help. She said no, but that she wanted them to grow up with nicer things so they would strive to be able to have those things. I found that so odd. But, when I look at my husband he is more ambitious than me in his career, and I guess part of the reason is for material things? He grew up getting whatever he wanted pretty much. He talks about going to disneyworld and his dad buying him a ton of stuff at the disney stores. I was allowed to spend $20 in the disney shop when I was little, and that was amazing to me. To him normal is being able to have all sorts of things. My normal is very different. I have more than I ever would have dreamed of because of him.

Wow, that was longer than I expected.

CWOTUS's avatar

Ah, that was nice, @Trillian. (So were the other responses that I read, too. Not to take anything away from them. But I liked the poetical touch that Gibran added.)

It reminds me of something that I think I read somewhere about how “you and I have something that the rich will never have… enough.”

disquisitive's avatar

I think it’s a standard and we get used to. If we are raised in an affluent family that lifestyle is “normal” to us and the expectation that we maintain that same level of affluency motivates us to be academically and eventually financially successful. If we are raised with working poor parents, that lifestyle is normal to us. The difference is when raised working poor, people tend to want to raise their standard of living as adults. They tend to work quite hard to have a better, or easier, life than their own parents. There are also people who grow up in poor families who live on government entitlements. This is the saddest of all. Statistically they will grow up to live on government entitlements too. I know young people in this category who are smart but have no familial support to be ambitious. These families do, however, teach their offspring how much income they can make and still get food stamps and subsidized housing. A really sad commentary of our times. It is getting worse too.

woodcutter's avatar

People are terrified they won’t be accepted by others who have material wants so they keep up with the Jones’s to stay connected. They will feel safer and less vulnerable if they are on par with all their acquaintances. They all know if they come off as only ordinary they will loose that connection and be passed over, left behind. It’s hard.

ucme's avatar

A weak & feeble mind, shallow fuckers basically.

harple's avatar

I think there may be a certain element of what you are used to. I work really hard to scrape by every month. I don’t have the choice to spend money on luxuries. (I occasionally treat myself to a nice coffee out and about, but I even have an agreement at my favourite coffee shop where I teach the owner the violin in exchange for coffees – if I didn’t do this, I would have zero social life!) A holiday for me is heading off in my miniscule camper van (a converted van, that is my sole vehicle) somewhere, and has to be carefully timed to fit around income earning opportunities. If I don’t work, I don’t earn.

Yesterday I was chatting to a dear new friend, who is at the other end of life from me. He is retired, drives a posh car, (one of several in his household) owns his house out-right, and thinks nothing of nipping abroad for holidays as and when the fancy takes him. He’s worked hard and has earned it. I doubt that he would be comfortable regressing to my point in life again, probably in the same way that I wouldn’t want to take a short cut to get to his way of life. (Okay, I wouldn’t say no to a lottery win, but that would involve me spending money on playing it in the first place…)

cookieman's avatar

If I need something (car, house, clothes, food), I want something well-made, good materials, and reliable. I am willing to pay for such things. These things make me happy, so – if I can afford them, I’m buying them.

That being said, I keep my cars until they die, I do a lot of the work on my house myself, and I only by clothes every couple years.

I feel no need to connect my self-worth, spirituality, or well-being to such things. But I like nice stuff.

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